Catullus 37: Lesbia, Egnatius, and Roman Mime

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Within the 'Lesbia' cycle of Catullan poems, poem 37 on the salax taberna has received minimal scholarly attention, due principally to its obscene content and language. This poem deserves a fuller exploration of its significant place in the Catullan corpus. Several critics of Catullus' carmina have noticed the connection of poem 37 to poem 36, where the truces iambi that Lesbia wishes to consign to the flames in poem 36 may refer to poem 37, which attacks her as one of the occupants of the salax taberna. Yet approaches to how poem 37 relates to other poems in the Catullan corpus vary widely. Donald Lateiner and Marilyn Skinner focus on the meaning and function of its obscene language. Brian Krostenko and Alan Booth examine Catullus' characterisation of Egnatius in poems 37 and 39 and consider the relative chronology of these poems. Marguerite Johnson argues that Catullus contrasts military and erotic warfare in poem 37, suggesting that the Temple of Castor and Pollux in 37.2 and the magna bella fought by Catullus for the sake of Lesbia in 37.13 may be subtle references to the Trojan war, and Catullus' imagining of Lesbia as Helen. © Publisher

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